We have studied fluctuations of background charges in single electron tunnelling (SET) transistors. Changes in the charge distribution of the substrate and other dielectric materials near the transistor cause uncontrolled changes in its conductivity. We have observed big differences in the type and frequency of the conductivity fluctuations between different samples, but no systematic dependence on the substrate material has been found. To obtain information about the location of the source of the charge noise, we performed coincidence measurements on two separate SET transistors which were made very near to each other. The results suggest that the conductivity fluctuations are caused by charges which are in the immediate vicinity, within about 300 nm of the transistor.